Skyway Bridge crash: 'You could hear the steel twisting,' judge told

Kyle Turnbull can remember working scaffolding on the Skyway Bridge and warning his colleagues about the approaching truck. The trial of dump truck driver Sukhvinder Singh Rai began Wednesday.

'Grab ahold of something - this truck's going to hit,' worker warned

The dump truck that struck the Burlington Skyway bridge had it's bucket raised as it slammed into the bridge's overhead steel trusses and girders on July 31, 2014. (Ontario Provincial Police)

Kyle Turnbull was working on scaffolding on the Burlington Skyway, and can remember yelling to his coworkers to grab onto something seconds before a dump truck with a raised bed crashed into the bridge.

"This doesn't look right," he recalled saying to his crew as he watched the truck approach. "Grab ahold of something - this truck's going to hit."

On Wednesday afternoon at John Sopinka Courthouse in Hamilton, Turnbull spoke of his experience on July 31, 2014.

This doesn't look right - grab ahold of something.- Kyle  Turnbull

That is the day the Burlington Skyway was heavily damaged and closed to traffic when a truck slammed into the bridge superstructure. The crash caused traffic chaos for days, forcing vehicles either around Hamilton or through its downtown core.

Wednesday marked the first day of Ontario Court of Justice trial for Sukhvinder Singh Rai, a 36-year-old Brampton man who is accused of crashing a dump truck with its bed raised into the Burlington Skyway. Rai faces charges of impaired driving, driving over 80 mgs, dangerous driving and mischief endangering life. 

He is pleading not guilty to all charges and is currently out on bail.

The trial is in front of a judge alone, Justice Fred Campling. 

The accused sat at the front of the courtroom, directly behind David Locke, his defence attorney. Beside him sat an interpreter, quietly translating everything that was said into Punjabi.

Scaffolding shook

Dressed in a black suit, he had a short goatee and was not wearing a turban like he was when he attended court last fall. His black hair was cut short, tussled in style that held firmly in place.

Turnbull, 35, was just one of several witnesses to the crash who spoke in court on Wednesday.

When truck hit the bridge, he said "it shook the scaffold pretty good."

In a photo shown to the court, planks of scaffolding were seen on the roadway and tilting sideways from their original place on the bridge. He said he and his crew were tied off, attached to a harness to prevent them from falling onto the road below.

Zachary Rennie was working alongside Turnbull when the crash occurred. It was a violent impact, the 21-year-old said, and there was a loud noise. "It was a fairly traumatizing experience for us workers.

"It pretty well demolished a good part of it," he said, speaking about the bridge. "You could hear the steel twisting."

After the collision, the workers on the scaffolding came down and met together away from the collision. The workers did not report any injuries faced by them or their crew.

Still feeling the effects

Todd Norman, assistant Crown attorney in the case, said the trial is scheduled to last until the end of the month.

A half-dozen witnesses took the stand on Wednesday to describe where they were when the dump truck hit the bridge. When Norman asked them to describe how the truck looked as it approached the bridge, witness after witness described the bed of the truck as raised or on its way up.

Xiaotong Cui is a 22-year-old Brock University student who ended up crashing into the back of the truck, when it slammed into the bridge. He said, speaking through a Mandarin interpreter, that he suffered a head and neck injury and lost consciousness when the airbags went off. 

He, along with his then girlfriend who was riding in the passenger seat, suffered a bruised chest, a sore back and neck pain. Cui said even now, when the weather is bad, he can still feel pain in his neck and back. Both were transported to hospital to be assessed after the crash.

The trial continues Thursday.


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